Keeping Local Governments’ Hands out of the Broadband Cookie Jar
From: Citizens Against Government Waste
Despite the availability of $800 billion for infrastructure projects, including broadband, the bipartisan infrastructure package includes another $65 billion for broadband deployment. The funding is being made available with few, if any, guardrails against local governments using the funding to overbuild over top existing broadband networks, and it is neither vendor nor technology neutral.
The need for access to broadband was never made clearer than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when tens of millions of Americans suddenly needed to go online to work, learn, and socialize. As a result of the investment of more than $1.8 trillion by the private sector to create the technology necessary to build the world’s most resilient networks, a competitive marketplace, and mostly light touch regulations, the U.S. telecommunications network held up far better than its global counterparts. In June 2020, a few months into the lockdowns and shutdowns, fixed and mobile broadband download speeds in the U.S. were 150 percent and 75 percent higher, respectively, than the comparable global median download speeds.
Americans can now get connected through multiple means, including cable, fiber, fixed wireless, mobile, wireline DSL, and satellite broadband. Families and businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the country have found that newer technologies like TV white space and low-earth orbit satellites are making the internet more accessible. Consumers continue to reap the benefits of these technologies. U.S. Telecom reported in its “ 2021 Broadband Pricing Index” that the U.S. has made three times the investment in broadband deployment and adoption as the European Union, resulting in better service and higher speeds at a lower cost, even with the increased usage during the pandemic.
While the best way to allow this incredible progress to continue would be to keep the government out of the way, President Biden’s June 9, 2021 “competition” Executive Order (EO) and his American Jobs Plan both prioritize a single technology (fiber) and networks owned or operated by local governments, cooperatives, and nonprofits rather than private companies. The resiliency and success of broadband service and access depends on multiple technologies and a competitive marketplace. A single technology and limited providers will result in higher prices, fewer choices, and less innovation, among other adverse consequences. Read more here.